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SSK Celebrates 150 year history


People Behind Birmingham's Paper Mill Celebrate 150 Year History

Birmingham, 23 May 2012 - More than 200 people gathered at the Birmingham Town Hall last night to celebrate 150 years of paper making in the City. Past and present employees, customers, suppliers, local residents and organisations all associated with the Smurfit Kappa SSK Paper Mill in Nechells, joined together for this prestigious event.

Founded back in 1862 by three Victorian entrepreneurs; Thomas Bird Smith, Sir John Benjamin Stone and Frederick Knight, the Smurfit Kappa SSK Paper Mill now plays a vital role in providing local employment as well as reducing the City’s carbon footprint. Almost 40,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard (recycled by Birmingham’s residents in their Birmingham City Council kerbside collection boxes or in Smurfit Kappa Recycling paper banks) is taken to the Paper Mill every year. This recovered paper and cardboard is then used by the mill as a raw material to make new packaging papers.

Sharon Lea, Strategic Director for Environment and Culture, Birmingham City Council, warmly congratulated Smurfit Kappa SSK on reaching their 150th anniversary. She said: “Being able to recycle Birmingham paper and cardboard in Birmingham whilst creating local jobs for Birmingham people was a fantastic good news story for the City and that recycling continued to be a very important part of the Council's strategy to further reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. Recent initiatives between the City Council and Smurfit Kappa Recycling have targeted Birmingham schools to provide information and local recycling facilities to young people and work is starting to encourage local businesses to recycle waste paper and cardboard. From 1993, when just 750 tonnes of paper was segregated for recycling, the relationship between both organisations had become increasingly important to the local economy and helping to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions.”

Staff past and present who have worked at the Paper Mill and seen it evolve into the modern sustainable business it is today were treated to an evening of nostalgic entertainment and celebration. Policemen on Penny Farthings and chimney sweeps on stilts greeted guests as they arrived, evoking a Victorian era when the Paper Mill was first established, when deliveries were by horse and cart and old rags were used as the raw material for paper making.

Additives Controller, Bipin Parmar, who started working at the mill 37 years ago, remembers: “The people down here were very friendly and made you very welcome and we all chipped in when there was trouble. Everyone helped each other out and that is why we survived. The warmth of people was very important.”

Today Smurfit Kappa SSK employs 110 people and produces 500-700 tonnes of packaging paper every day which is then converted into cardboard boxes by its customers. As well as the paper machine itself, the site contains two Combined Heat and Power plants (CHPs) which generate nearly all of the mill’s electrical demand. A water treatment plant cleans the mill’s process water and produces methane gas to supplement the mill’s natural gas demand. The mill has become a net exporter of electricity to the national grid as a result of the installation of a gas engine which will generate power from the water treatment plant’s bio-gas. 

Trainee Operative Karol Krupa said: “I really enjoy working here. The job is really diverse. It is like a challenge for me because every day is different.”

Operations Director, Paul Freeman who has worked at Smurfit Kappa SSK for more than 20 years said: “People have always been our most valuable resource with their vision, their innovation, their drive and their relentless hard work ensuring our success and that will certainly remain the case for our future.”

Smurfit Kappa SSK’s 150 year history has been documented in a commemorative publication called Birmingham Memories, published by True North Books. The company hopes to continue its year of anniversary celebrations with an open day at the Paper Mill in Nechells this summer. 

Smurfit Kappa SSK Past and Present Employees Celebrate 150 Year Anniversary at Birmingham Town Hall 22 05 2012.jpg


Photograph Caption: The attached photograph shows Smurfit Kappa SSK staff past and present being greeted by actors dressed in Victorian costume at Birmingham Town Hall. Left to right (excluding the actors dressed as Victorian policemen) the men shown are: Don Hewitt (now retired) who worked at the mill for 50 years, Russell Whitehouse, shift technician currently working at the mill and past employee Nick Francis who started working at the mill in 1962.

Press Information: Background to the history of Smurfit Kappa SSK and paper recycling in Birmingham and photos from the 150 year archive are available on request from Iona Communications below.

Press Contact:

Anna Dunbar or Doug Bentall at Iona Communications Ltd, Tel: 01892 512481  or 


SSK Celebrates 150 year history